WP155 A micro-ecology of language in multi-ethnic Frankfurt: The linguistic ethnography of a barbershop



Through the linguistic ethnography of a multiethnic barbershop, this paper explores the spaces, activities and sets of language practices in which an ethnically diverse mix of Frankfurt-residents-who-grew-up-abroad and Frankfurt-residents-who-grew-up-in-Germany regularly converge. In the patterns and strategies that the paper documents, interactional sensitivities are displayed which guide communication across diverse and discrepant language repertoires. These interactional sensitivities are manifest in: i) ecumenical German – a set of improvisations, involving various acts of communication accommodation and language socialisation, focused on encouraging comprehension; ii) a licence to cross, which regulates the deployment of heritage language resources; and iii) translating/interpreting as a practice of inclusion, whereby speakers continually monitor unfolding activities and participant frameworks and spontaneously resolve communicative discrepancies when they arise.
Drawing extensively on transcripts of natural interaction, the project’s findings are presented in three sections devoted to: i) the people and activities of the barbershop and their implications for our understanding of the everyday navigation of linguistic diversity; ii) the micro-ecology of language cultivated in this setting; and iii) the limits to comprehension and how these are coped with. Subsequent discussion of the findings suggests a number of problems with traditional conceptions of migrant L2 speakers in language research – especially where insufficient attention has been paid to the ‘Total Linguistic Fact’ (Silverstein 1985) – and testifies to the important contribution that linguistic ethnography can make to our understanding of modes of life in diverse and constantly changing urban neighbourhoods.